As a general rule, Zillow estimates that utility expenses will cost between 10 and 20 percent of your monthly rent. However, actual figures vary based on the size of your apartment, your apartment complex policies, your geographical area and your consumption habits. To get a more exact estimate, talk with your landlord and utility companies about what to expect.
Step 1: Determine What Your Apartment Covers
Contact the apartment property manager and inquire if any utilities are included in your monthly rent. Oftentimes, an apartment complex only has a single water, gas or electricity meter rather than individual meters for each apartment. In this situation, the utility company assesses the charges to the apartment complex, which passes that amount along to the tenants by increasing rent costs rather than billing each tenant for his own actual use. If the rent itself isn't affected, inquire if you'll be assessed a flat monthly fee for certain utilities instead.
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Step 2: Find Out Who Your Utility Providers Are
Determine what other utilities you'll need to pay for that aren't covered by your apartment complex. Necessary utilities may include electricity, gas, water, sewer and trash services. If you plan to purchase Internet access, a telephone line and cable or satellite television, include those services as well.
Find out who provides the utility services that you'll need. Electricity, gas, water, sewer and trash services may be provided by your city or they may be accessible through a private regulated company. In most cases, there's only one service provider in your area that will provide these utility services, though you may have the choice of a few providers for Internet, cable or DSL service. Your property manager should be able to tell you what utilities you'll need to purchase and the name of the organizations in your area that provide them.
Step 3: Obtain an Estimated Utility Cost
Estimate the average cost of utilities for your apartment. The easiest way to do this is to call the customer service line for each utility and ask the representative what you should expect. In some cases, like with trash service, you may be charged a flat fee based on how many trash cans you use. For other services, like electricity, gas and water, you may be charged both a flat fee and a variable fee based on your monthly usage. Energy and water companies should be able to give you an average or ballpark estimate of utility cost based on the size of your apartment.
Step 4: Refine the Estimate
Once you've obtained an average cost based on the size of your apartment, fine tune the number based on your personal consumption habits. Actions that could increase your energy and water bill include:
- Keeping the lights on.
- Keeping computers or televisions on during the day.
- Inefficient or old refrigerators, heaters, air conditioners, washers or dryers.
- Heating the entire house or cooling it with an air conditioner.
- Poor insulation and single-pane windows.
- A leaky toilet.
- High usage of the washer and dishwasher.
Check if your utility companies provide energy and water guides that provide detailed information about usage and costs. For example, San Diego Gas and Electric provides a room-by-room guide that helps consumers estimate how much different appliances and activities cost by hour.